KOHL INCREASES FUNDING FOR FOOD SAFETY INSPECTIONS, DIRECTS FUNDING TO NEW FDA RAPID RESPONSE TEAMS
Senator Bolsters FDA Budget for Additional Research to Prevent and Contain Contamination Outbreaks
U.S. Senator Herb Kohl today included substantial funding increases for the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) efforts to ensure a safe domestic and imported food supply as part of the FY2008 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. Kohl is the Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations and presided over a Congressional hearing in March to examine the issue of food safety; he called for additional research and rapid response teams to help prevent and contain contamination of produce. Kohl included in the agriculture spending bill an increase of more than $48 million for food safety initiatives at the FDA -- additional inspectors and new rapid response teams -- as well as a $38 million increase for the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the inspection of meat and poultry. The Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee has jurisdiction over the FDA and USDA, the two government agencies charged with keeping the food supply safe.
"The FDA faces a daunting task in ensuring that our food supply, which is becoming increasingly global, remains safe, secure and sanitary. If we expect them to monitor the billions of dollars of domestic and imported food that moves rapidly throughout our country, from field to table, we must equip them with the resources necessary to do the job. I'm pleased that with many worthy interests competing for our scarce federal dollars, we made food safety a priority this year," Kohl said.
The FY2008 Agriculture Appropriations Bill boosts funding for the FDA to $1.755 billion, an increase of nearly $186 million above the FY2007 level, and nearly $120 million more than the President's budget request. Included in this funding is an increase of $48 million for food safety programs at the FDA, boosting their capacity to inspect fresh fruits and vegetables by hiring over 90 additional inspectors.
As part of the increase, $11 million will permit the FDA to create rapid response teams to respond when a food contamination outbreak occurs. These teams will consist of staff trained specifically to rapidly trace back an outbreak to its root cause and stationed in significant produce growing areas in the United States, so that any time an outbreak occurs, the source can be identified as quickly as possible, preventing further distribution of the contaminated product. Further, when these teams are not actively responding to a food safety occurrence, they will be working with growers, processors, packers and state and local officials to ensure that FDA guidelines for safe food production are understood and implemented
Another $6 million included in the increase will be dedicated to increased research on food safety issues, including the reduction of microbial contamination of produce and new rapid screening methods to identify pathogens in food samples as quickly as possible, and as early in the food chain as possible.
"The American people are enormously reliant on the FDA's scientific expertise, their judgment and their impartiality. And this subcommittee expects results from this additional funding. We direct the FDA to provide quarterly reports detailing the expenditure of these funds. We want to know how many staff and inspectors have been hired and how many research contracts have been let. I want the FDA to know that our subcommittee will be watching very closely," Kohl said.
The Agriculture Appropriations bill next goes before the Senate for approval.